Former Wichita State star Cleanthony Early is the 2014 Wichita Sports Commission Male Athlete of the Year in the college division.
Early, a 6'8" forward, led the 2013-14 Shockers in scoring, averaging at 16.4 points per game. The Middletown, N.Y. native also led the team with 5.9 rebounds a game.
His career highlights at Wichita State included a 31 point outburst against the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA tournament. He also poured in 24 points during a Final Four matchup against the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinals in 2013.
It was a big night for Early, who missed the banquet to be in New York for the NBA draft, where he was drafted 34th overall to the Knicks.
"I know Cle would be excited to have this award for him tonight, but it's obviously a big night for him," said Wichita State assistant coach Steve Forbes. "This is a big professional night for him, so he is excited I'm sure."
On top of being one of the best players in the nation, Early was a part of a team that had a perfect 36-0 record before falling to national runner up Kentucky by 2 points in their second game of the NCAA tournament.
"He was a great teammate," said Forbes. "Very positive attitude. Probably the biggest thing that impressed me more about him than anything was his competiveness, every day in practice. And then in the big games, on the big stage, he always showed up."
Early was a big piece of the puzzle that came together in a 36-game winning streak for the Shockers in the 2013-2014 season, and a leader the team was more than happy to have on the floor.
"He played on a great team with great teammates," said Forbes, "but he was the most talented guy this year. But yet he didn't overstep his boundaries. He always blended in with the rest of the team. But it's always good to know in the big game that you've got the best player on the court. We had the best player on the court a lot of the times."